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US troops to complete withdrawal from Niger’s Air Base

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According to a United States general on Friday, the US military will finish removing its soldiers from Niger’s Air Base 101 in the capital on Sunday and will next concentrate on leaving a significant drone base in the upcoming weeks.

Following a coup in the West African nation last year, the junta in Niger ordered the United States to remove its almost 1,000 soldiers from the country in April, causing Washington to face an embarrassing defeat.

Before the coup, Niger had played a significant role in the United States’ campaign against militants in the Sahel region of Africa, who had caused millions of people to be displaced and thousands of deaths. Though the process is taking a while, officials in Washington warn that American intelligence on the rapidly expanding extremist groups in the region is waning. Washington is looking for a Plan B in West Africa.

Air Force Major General Kenneth Ekman, who is in Niger to oversee the withdrawal, announced that a ceremony will take place on Sunday night to officially close Air Base 101 for the United States. In the nation’s capital, Niamey, the base is situated close to Diori Hamani International Airport.

“We will do a joint ceremony on that occasion that marks the departure of the last U.S. C-17 (aircraft). The government of Niger will assume control of former U.S. areas and facilities,” Ekman said, speaking by video conference.

Russia has sent military personnel to the same base as the United States is leaving, and they are conducting training exercises there. Ekman emphasized that he has obtained guarantees from Niger that the forces of the two countries will remain apart, despite claims made by US officials that there has been no communication between American and Russian servicemen there.

“When I last talked to a Nigerian interlocutor, he quantified the presence of Russian forces as under 100. And he also talked about when the Russians are done training them, they have told the Russians that they have to go home,” Ekman said.

Troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have conducted coups since 2020, accusing civilian leaders of facilitating the advance of Islamist extremists. Juntas have broken defence pacts with US, French, and UN forces once they have taken control. The military government of Niger has given the United States until September 15th to withdraw its forces. This includes withdrawing from a $100 million drone base close to Agadez in central Niger, which had supplied vital intelligence regarding organizations associated with the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Musings From Abroad

IMF lowers Botswana’s growth projection for 2024

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In a statement, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reduced its earlier April estimate of 3.6% growth for Botswana to 1%, primarily because of decreased diamond production.

In addition, the IMF warned that a decline in mineral income would cause the budget deficit to balloon to 6% from 3.45% and urged the diamond-rich nation in southern Africa to think twice before embarking on new infrastructure projects to support the economy.

“The continued (economic) slowdown is mainly due to a fall in diamond production,” said IMF said in a statement released late on Friday.

“Some fiscal relaxation is warranted this year given the fall in mineral revenues, but the execution of the ambitious capital budget should be slowed down to contain the deterioration of the deficit and prioritize projects with the highest returns,” the IMF said.

 

The demand prognosis for diamonds, which are typically regarded as luxury goods, has decreased due to weaker consumer demand and a weakening in the global economy.

Finance Minister Peggy Serame predicted in February that the economy would expand by 4.2%, but a few months later the central bank issued a warning, stating that the ongoing challenges in the world diamond market made it doubtful that this goal would be met.

Diamond sales account for 30–40% of Botswana’s total revenue and 75% of its foreign exchange profits.

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Musings From Abroad

Russian state company, Malian junta negotiate nuclear deal

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According to Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear business and the ruling military junta in Mali have signed three cooperation agreements and discussed several projects, including the construction of a low-power nuclear power plant with Russian design, on Wednesday.

For years, Rosatom has been pursuing a charm offensive in Africa in an attempt to secure business through the signing of cooperation agreements with nations all over the continent. As part of that effort, closer ties have been made with juntas in the Sahel region of West Africa, who have retreated from conventional Western allies after seizing power in coups before 2020.

Junta-led administrations in the West African states of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger Republic, and Mali have all tilted towards Russia for military ties, severing relations with former colony France and its international ally, the United States.

In a statement, Rosatom claimed that it had met with Assimi Goita, the head of Mali’s junta, on July 2 and 3. It has talks with junta authorities in charge of energy, education, and economics.

The statement added that in addition to talking about a “strategic project to build a Russian-designed low-power nuclear power plant in Mali,” junta leaders and Rosatom also discussed geological exploration projects and solar power generating.

Regarding the projected low-power nuclear power station that might be constructed in Mali, Rosatom withheld information.

“The parties agreed to continue maintaining close contacts and periodically coordinate positions as joint work progresses,” it said.

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